Healing Journey Monday: Learn your body!

First, a side note:  My colleague, Kreig Cremeans (of Bodypatterning fame in previous posts) and I will be offering our 3-day workshop, Intro to Bodypatterning and Restoring Fluidity and Freedom of Movement in Corte Madera, CA  (San Francisco area) April 29-May 1.  The class has 21 CE hours (NCBTMB).  If you have body worker friends in the area I’d so appreciate it if you’d let them know.  Details on Kreig’s website.

My greatest struggle as a movement teacher has arisen from trying to make sure that students move within their limits.  I used to think I was doing a pretty good job because I demonstrate postures and movements at more than one level and repeat often that everyone should make sure they’re moving within their limits.  Over time I’ve had a number of students who wound up complaining of pain and  I worked with them on “making it smaller” with movements and postures so they were able to continue without having more issues.

But I had to realize that I somehow kept failing at communication if students continued to go too far into postures or made the triggers of release movements too large for their abilities.  What I finally came to understand is that many people are so numb to their bodies that just saying “stay within your limits” doesn’t really help them understand (and trust me that was where I started out–I was just young enough to get away with being that unconscious).  We’re kind of a society of “suck it up”, “soldier on through”, etc.  So many of my students missed noting any limit that didn’t involve something breaking or tearing, accompanied by unbearable pain.

I’ve been working on a longer list of  “signs that you’ve moved too far or made a movement too large”.  Some of these came from Kreig and I’m interested to hear whether any of you yoga teachers and students who read my posts have any more to suggest:

1.  If it hurts at all you’ve gone too far or made the movement too big (fill this in on the rest)

2.  If anything feels like it’s pulling …

3.  If the movement or pose goes from easy to uncomfortable….

4.  If you can’t breathe (because of discomfort)…

5.  If  you feel like you’re forcing your body to the position it’s in or to make a bigger movement …

In the end, as I tell all my students, I can tell you over and over to stay in your limits but only you can feel when you reach them.  There’s no way that I (or any teacher) can tell by watching if you bent too far forward in a forward bend or took your knees too far toward the floor in the triggers of release for hips.  If you’re not used to noting and honoring the signals your body gives you this can be the most challenging part of yoga (or any movement practice) but if you stay in your limits you can progress safely and without pain until you can do more and more.  Yoga–at least the way I teach it–is meant to help you find greater health and balance.  It’s not about proving that you can fight through pain and/or discomfort and wind up in a lot of pain the next day.  Learn your body, let the practice flow.  Easy does it really can get you there.

Let me know those suggestions!

Related articles

Learning Yourself Through Yoga

My long-time yoga teacher, Bill Hunt, taught me so many things that I’ve remembered and that have helped me, not just in yoga, but in life.  A lesson that has had a big impact on me related to paying attention to how you practice yoga and learning about yourself as you do it.

Each major category of postures relates to a stance you take in life or a way you deal with life.  If you pay attention to which postures are hard for you to do, which postures are easy to do, which you don’t like, which you love you can see a lot about how you are in the world.

Forward bends relate to inwardness or being introverted.  If forward bends are hard for you to do or you don’t like them (regardless of whether they seem easy or hard)  there’s a good chance that you have trouble looking inward or delving deep into your psyche or that you’re extroverted.  If you easily do forward bends or favor doing them you’re probably introverted or inclined to look inward.

Back bends relate to openness or letting yourself be out there and/or seen in the world.  If you struggle to do them or just don’t like them you probably have a hard time putting yourself out there or tend to be introverted.  If you love them and do them easily it’s likely that you’re extroverted and/or have no trouble being out in front of people.

Strength postures literally relate to strength.  If they’re hard for you to do that says something about whether you show strength in life or a firm ability to hold your place.  If they’re easy and you like to do them you probably face the world from a place of strength.  If your muscles are so strong that you are held rigid there’s a good chance that you have issues of rigidity or inflexibility in life as well.

Balance postures (mainly the standing balances) reflect something about whether your life is balanced–emotionally, mentally, and/or spiritually.  A flexible spine reflects your ability to be flexible in life and a spine that doesn’t move well reflects rigidity or inability to bend.

Way back when I took yoga classes from him (1986-1991) I quickly realized back bends were a major issue for me.  I could barely get an inch off the floor in, say, cobra pose and since I was about as introverted as could be and virtually incapable of speaking in public I could see how my inability to bend backwards reflected the state of my being.

I began to work at back bend postures — slowly and lazily.  Over the course of some years my ability to do them improved (still an upward curve for me).  When they’d gotten to be pretty good I looked at my life and realized I’d been taking on leadership roles and teaching and feeling at ease in front of people for a while.  I worked on lots of other stuff over those years so I can’t claim it was only the change in my ability to do back bends but I think it played a big part.  Or perhaps the decision to work on a certain kind of postures reflects some internal decision to make a change.

Strength postures weren’t easy for  me either and, although I could do them, I really didn’t like them.  For some reason that didn’t bother me as much as the back bend issue so it’s just been in the last six or seven years that I’ve really worked at developing my ability to do postures like chair pose or my ability to hold downward dog for 50 breaths.  The results are more subtle, but I can feel myself holding a stronger inward space, holding my own center with strength.

I find it fun and interesting to check in periodically to see where I am in my practice and what it’s telling me about my life.  Check it out, you might learn something new about yourself or help yourself make a change by focusing on postures that support the direction in which you want to go.

See also:

Yoga and the Story of Balance


Learning Your Body

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Western medical thinking seems to mostly by-pass muscles unless they’re prescribing a muscle relaxant or repairing a serious injury. I’m not sure if that’s why most people have so little understanding about their muscles or if it’s just the general lack of holistic health education. I didn’t understand so much either until I embarked on this long healing journey. Two main pieces I’ve been paying attention to lately are the way patterns set in and spread if there’s an injury and nothing is done to restore and re-balance the muscles and the way those patterns start interconnecting with other unaddressed patterns to create complex patterns of tightness and pain.

I’ve noticed that when a student comes to me because of pain in a hip I often have trouble convincing that student that we need to address the whole body and that there will be other areas that impact the part that hurts. All the massage therapists I know tell me they have the same trouble with clients who don’t want them to work anywhere but on the exact place where they feel pain.

The whole muscular system is interconnected so if you injure a muscle in one area and don’t do anything about it the twist or knots in that area will slowly start pulling on the other muscles around it and when those twist they start pulling on other muscles and so on. Then if you injure a muscle in another area another pattern moves out. Sometimes several patterns wind up intersecting in one place and it’s likely that that’s where you’ll feel pain but a practitioner has to work on all the patterns and they often have to work more at the source of each pattern.

I find when I work with people on my triggers of release stuff they’ll often have results in their shoulders, for instance, not only from working on the shoulders but also from the hands, wrists, elbows, hips, low back, neck, knees, ankles and feet. Which other areas have the most impact will vary depending on each person’s patterns.. Once people work with the movements and check in to before and after results they start seeing how much one area can impact another.

Dr. Janet Travell expanded on the earlier work of Dr. Dudley Morton to develop a body of work on myofascial pain and trigger points that was later used to create Myofascial Therapy and since then a number of therapies have developed that work with these theories. John Upledger in writing about his Craniosacral Therapy discussed how one fall, if no treatment to restore the muscles was done, could lead to pain and problems in many other areas years later. The best advice is that any time you fall or have a painful injury you should visit a skilled massage therapist (I highly recommend Cremeans’ Bodypatterning but it’s available only in limited places at the moment) or craniosacral therapist and also practice some movements like the triggers of release developed by Feldenkrais and Robert Masters (my Kindle book, Restoring Fluidity and Freedom of Movement, combines these movements with yoga).

If you’ve rarely or never had bodywork to get your muscles back to health and, especially, if you’ve had falls and accidents where treatment ignored your muscles, then it may take a long time to restore your muscles to good health. This is not a go to the doctor and get a shot or pill to end the symptoms kind of thing. You can take pills to get rid of the pain but they won’t address the actual problem. Getting your muscles back to health is a commitment of time and energy. If you do something like my movement work in between appointments it will go much faster but you need to start down the path to restoring your body with a willingness to be patient and count success in small increments.

In relation to a spiritual journey, all those knots and twists in your muscles are blocking the nadis, which are the channels through which prana and kundalini flow. Besides balancing the chakras, the main point of yoga is keeping those channels open on the theory that it isn’t possible to reach enlightenment if the energy can’t flow freely through your body.

Please, if you’re in a car accident or fall on the ice or get knocked down by a falling shelf (etc.) take care of your muscles! If you haven’t ever done much to get your muscles unwound and aligned properly, start!

Submitted for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday, which is “L” this week.

Teaching yoga… what do you think?

Woman on the ground doing yoga

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I have conversations every now and then about teaching classes that leave me reflecting about how I lead my classes. Recently I’ve noted that I’ve built in a couple of philosophies that I didn’t consciously realize I had. And since it turns out not everyone agrees, I’m interested in hearing what people think.

The first piece is one that I think is present in movement classes in a way that it’s not in, say, a meditation class. I feel most people have some type of discomfort about their bodies—varying degrees and sorts but still discomfort. And it always seems to me that a lot of people feel a bit self-conscious about coming into a movement class and having other people not only seeing their bodies but moving their bodies around in unfamiliar ways and wondering if they’re “doing it right” or looking dumb. Those who take lots of exercise or yoga classes reach some place where they’re used to it but still I often feel that I’m holding something delicate in my hands and that, even though nothing is said, I can see an anxiety to be seen kindly, to not be pointed out or made to feel foolish.

So I try very hard to correct via instructions to the group rather than aiming corrections to a particular person, to make little adjustments to a majority if I move around the class rather than correcting one and always to be encouraging to the whole group about how pleased I am that they’re doing well and keeping the movements within their comfort ranges. I don’t know if it helps, but I feel like people breathe a little easier by the time they’ve had a couple of classes because I work hard at letting everyone move without feeling I’m going to direct the entire attention of the class at them or belittle their efforts. Most of my teaching friends work on a similar basis but I have run into some who feel that correcting and challenging is part of the job and call out to people by name or single one person out to adjust.

The other piece is about making hands-on corrections. Until a recent conversation left me perplexed about it I hadn’t looked at ethical standards about it since yoga teacher training in 1988. I’ve always had a policy to tell my group on the first day of class that I sometimes make hands-on corrections but that if anyone doesn’t want to be touched they can just tell me as I go around that they don’t want me to. There are also a couple of corrections I learned from my teacher that I consider to be potentially sensitive so I tell them the first time I do those what I’m about to do and that if anyone is uncomfortable I’ll skip that person. For me, if I’ve asked a student whether she wants to be touched and she’s said no that’s the end no matter how deeply I feel that she could really use the correction. Sometimes I can tell that a student is not that happy about being touched even if they haven’t said “no” and I generally try to keep it to a minimum after that.

After another (non-movement) teaching friend recently seemed surprised that touching isn’t just assumed to be part of the deal in yoga I look around at some ethics codes to see if I just remembered wrong in thinking you’re not just supposed to go around putting your hands on people.  I found that the advice is variable but seems to always include that at the least you should inform your class that you sometimes touch and give people the chance to opt out. Some feel you should even have them sign a waiver form. Some teachers avoid touch altogether rather than face any legal questions about inappropriate touch.

I know a lot of my regular blog readers practice yoga or some other exercise and some of you are even teachers so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on these teaching questions and how you prefer to be treated. 


Keeping on after patience goes…

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For the last couple of months I’ve been thinking—and sometimes telling others—that I’m beyond patience with this unwinding head thing. When my jaw failed to open out all the way apparently every muscle around my face that connects to either the upper or lower palate got cemented in; at least every time some part of the muscles tries to unwind it feels like it’s been yanked by something encased in cement. And then I have to laugh to myself because of course this, like all things, has its own process and its own time and it is going to do its thing for however long some higher power has determined regardless of whether I do or don’t have patience.

It’s a good lesson in both mindfulness and detachment. The yanks and pulls tug me into painful awareness of the moment and then I struggle each time through the choice of whether to be grateful that the pain means healing or to feel put upon that this keeps happening to me or to shrug and realize that this is just what is and I can choose how to feel about it or whether I need to feel anything at all.

I’m getting more quiet spells when the movement and burning pain calm down for days (or most recently a couple of weeks!) and I sleep and feel good and get a glimmer of what it feels like to have healthy muscles and just live. It used to be that I couldn’t visualize a healthy, pain-free me because I had no memory of what that felt like. Now I have vivid memories of these lovely days I’ve had and I can nudge patience along by reminding myself that all of this leads to feeling that good being normal.

But today, right this minute, to be honest… AACCKK!!! Somebody up there make it stop please, I’m out of patience! And I’m so grateful that the lump of bone in my upper palate is even smaller.

This post if for Jenny Matlock’s AlphabeThursday for which the letter this week is “K”.


Let it flow

http://www.flickr.com/photos/medaugh/14978376/ grace in winter 2] * Uploaded by Ekabhishek

I know, I know, I kind of harp about fluidity and flow. I’ve understood its importance for a long time, but as these last corded muscles slowly open and I feel blood flow where I could not before that understanding is deepening. If you have painfully knotted muscles or tight muscle patterns your blood isn’t circulating everywhere it should go and the vital nutrients that are carried from your breath into your blood stream are failing to reach many places that need the nutrients.

In other words, if your muscles aren’t healthy, relaxed and in proper alignment you won’t just feel pain or tension or have trouble moving, you will not be as healthy as you could be. It takes a lot of effort for your body to hold all those tight patterns and at the same time your body isn’t receiving oxygen and other crucial nutrients so at the least you lack energy. Deep level muscles can also squeeze organs and glands so that they don’t function properly so you can also have more serious impacts. Allopathic medicine largely doesn’t acknowledge muscles as being affected by accidents or injuries nor that untreated muscles issues can impact much more than whether it hurts to move.

Not only do those knots and twists block the flow of blood and breath but the nadis, or energy channels, through which prana (chi or vital force energy) flows are also blocked. Many, if not most, spiritual traditions have practices to assist in keeping the flow of prana open and full because higher consciousness requires the free and balanced flow of energy.

I feel like my long and—at times—tortuous journey through chronic fatigue and twisted, painful muscles has been in part so that I could learn all this and help other people to understand. In the US we have become so separated from our bodies (I’d guess it’s true in general of western civilization but I’ll just claim it based on what I actually know here) that I’m constantly taken aback by how unconscious most people are of their bodies and how lacking in awareness of how every part connects to and impacts every other part.

I’ll keep coming back to this, trying to say it in different ways so it makes sense to different people. Please, take care of keeping your muscles flexible and strong and healthy.

See also: Connections and Your Muscles, Emotions and Your Muscles, Helping the Bodywork Progress, Healing is a Participatory Activity, Sway with Me–Flowing As You Age

Healing Journey Monday: The final stretch

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My journey the last month or so has been mostly a hibernation that included lots of sleepless nights from the unwinding head saga and a flu that went several rounds. The amazing upside is that the huge lump of bone in the roof of my mouth has flattened considerably during this time and as the big constricted lump in my head has loosened my energy and outlook have changed noticeably.

I also managed to complete the instruction book for my movement classes (cover above) and it will be available on Kindle within the next couple of days ($2.99). For 90 days it’s available in the lending library if you have Amazon Prime so check it out for free while you can. I even have an author page!

Another big piece of the change-in-progress was a ceremony some friends and I performed a couple of weeks ago to heal all our ancestors – I’m working on a post about that that will be up soon. Let’s just say it was an amazing afternoon.

The last few days, after several days of sleeping and sleeping, I’ve actually felt motivated and positive and I’ve been slowly checking off “to-do’s” that have been hanging over my head for quite a while. This is an aspect of who I used to be that I’ve missed and I have to say I’m glad to have her back!

Healing Journey Monday: Helping the Body Work Progress

Years ago when I was living in the Bay Area, I’d been practicing yoga for six or seven years but it still didn’t occur to me to do some yoga before I went to a massage appointment. Early in my years out there someone I knew introduced me to Kabuki Springs, the Japanese baths, and I became a regular for the rest of my time in the area.

One week I happened to have a massage appointment for a time slot shortly after my regular time to go soak and steam, etc. at Kabuki.  So I arrived at the appointment having spent an hour in the sauna, steam room, and hot tub and the massage therapist exclaimed over how much easier it was to get into my muscles. When I told her I went regularly to the Kabuki we arranged my massage schedule from then on to follow my sessions in Japantown. You’d think I’d have figured out more but somehow it didn’t sink in.

After I moved to Kentucky I couldn’t afford as much bodywork as I’d previously been getting so I made quite an effort to be practicing yoga and doing the Robert Masters work in between appointments to try to keep the releases they achieved. But it wasn’t until some years after that that I was down to an every other week appointment for Bodypatterning and, determined to get every advantage from those appointments, I not only created the work I’m doing now that combines yoga with the Robert Masters movements but I started making sure that I did stretches, movements and energy work right before every appointment (with a soak in a hot bath in between). For the first time ever not only did the releases from one appointment often hold until the next but sometimes I arrived having released even more than where we were when I left.

In more of those chats with body workers I’ve been gathering that I’m unusual for the amount of effort I put in, especially as to making sure that I’m as stretched out and balanced as I can be before I start an appointment. Without doing the work, usually in those appointments the first half to three-quarters of the session is spent on just getting out the kinks that have appeared or reappeared in between appointments. So only a small amount of time can be spent on moving further in the process.  When I get to an appointment they can usually move very quickly to the point of taking up where they left off instead of taking so much time just do undo what has gone off.  If you participate in the work to keep your body open and balanced, you can speed the healing journey tremendously.

For me, the combination has been the thing that finally broke through the muscle patterns that no one had been able to release. Now, Kreig’s Bodypatterning is brilliant so I have to give a big nod to his work. But I also know (and we’ve discussed this) that without the effort I have made we probably wouldn’t be nearly as far along. I wonder if the ultimate releases at the core level that I’m experiencing now would ever have been reached without all that added effort on my part.

I mention all this because I knew a lot about how the body works and yet I didn’t put it together that I could seriously help the process. I’ve been regular at practicing yoga for the entire 26+ years I’ve been doing it but I never made a point of doing a practice right before an appointment. So I thought I’d make a big point of mentioning this—in addition to the last post about participating. If you’re getting therapeutic bodywork, practice something like yoga or Feldenkreis and make sure you take some time before an appointment to stretch and re-balance and, if possible, get a soak in a hot bath before you go. The more you’ve worked out the kinks before you arrive, the more the practitioner can get done in your appointment. If you seriously want to release painful holding patterns, help the body work along by keeping your body in tune.

Added note: I did some of the Masters work as an adjunct to massage, etc. but also didn’t use that work right before appointments. The triggers work from Masters and Feldenkrais is powerful stuff and it has been particularly useful at getting deeper into holding patterns and creating new, healthier patterns. If there’s someone in your area who teaches Feldenkrais, Somatics or Masters’ Psychophysical Method, I highly recommend that you look into it. I’ll have a text-only manual up on Kindle soon if you want some instructions for practicing on your own.

Healing Journey Monday: Healing is a participatory activity

Following up on last week’s post on the interconnections in the muscular system, I’ve also been chatting quite a bit with body workers about how many people are unwilling to do anything to further their own healing. For example, with so many massage therapists among my clientele in my movement classes, they’ve recommended to many clients—at least 2 dozen that people have mentioned to me—that they’d progress faster and get relief by taking my class. One person ever has signed up based on those recommendations.

They tell me they make all kinds of recommendations about stretches or changes that would assist the process and week after week people come back and admit they haven’t done anything – some don’t even recall that they were given anything to do.

My personal experience is that doing something like the combination of movements that trigger release and yoga that I practice on a regular basis between appointments can make a huge difference. I’m generally at the least able to hold all the releases that were achieved in the last appointment and sometimes he tells me I’ve actually opened significantly more than was open when I left the last time. Every student I’ve ever had who has had a regular chiropractor or physical therapist or massage therapist has reported back after 1-2 classes that the practitioner was amazed by how much had opened just from one or two classes*

I’ve also known lots of people who had doctors or practitioners tell them that they should avoid eating certain foods or make sure to eat more of some particular food because the foods either hurt their condition or help their condition. And the number of people who won’t follow the advice is amazing. I have to include myself up to a point because I’ve changed my diet radically due to such advice and yet I’m not 100% at all about following the restrictions.

The point is that healing – as opposed to just masking symptoms, as lots of prescriptions do – generally requires that the patient/client be willing to participate in the process. Acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, whatever the modality, it’s not that likely that a client is going to heal completely without taking herbs and/or changing diet and/or doing yoga, etc. And the puzzling thing to me is why so many people are not willing to do anything at all.  Really, healing is a participatory activity!  Do you have any practices or dietary changes that you know make you feel better but that you don’t do anyway?  Any clients who constantly wish the pain would be gone or the healing complete but refuse to taking any action themselves (other than coming to you) to make that happen?

* “Much” is a relative term in this kind of thing and that can mean that things have loosened up enough for the therapist to notice but there may be so much that’s still tight that the student is less aware; and it may take time to get it all opened.

Healing Journey Monday: Connections and your muscles

I’ve mentioned this topic here and there but it keeps coming up so often that I feel like it needs a post of its own. Our bodies are systems and have lots of parts that interconnect. Muscles are a big interlocking system and once one of them is seriously out of alignment, it’s just about guaranteed that others will be pulled out of alignment. The longer the situation continues without any intervention, the more you will have muscles all over your body that are knotted or twisted or pulling in the wrong direction or squeezing glands or organs.

For a while now I’ve mostly been teaching my movement classes for body workers and I’m finding myself having more and more conversations about clients who can’t understand why you might need to work on the right hip when the pain is in the shoulder or to release the left ankle when the pain is in the left hip. They don’t understand when you try to explain that the muscles connect and that the place of pain is often not where the main problem lies or a connecting muscle that’s out of alignment may have to be addressed in order to heal the pain.

If you severely twist your ankle, all the muscles that are connected to the torqued area are probably going to tighten in response. If any knots or twists from the incident remain (most medical therapies don’t do anything to sort out the muscles after an issue like this) they’re going to lock in more deeply and over time the muscles that connect to the locked ones will be pulled and twisted as well. Eventually the torque in the ankle will impact muscles all the way up that side of the body. Once that side of the body is out of alignment, it will start pulling the other side of the body out of alignment. If you have a variety of accidents – even a small fall or minor twist can contribute– and leave the muscles untouched you’ll have patterns like that going all over the place, interconnecting and yanking on one another.  Check out John Upledger, creator of CranioSacral Therapy, for a nice discussion of how patterns begin and linger.

Asking a massage therapist to massage only a shoulder or asking a movement teacher like me to give you movements that only address your hips is kind of like asking to have only the first part of a surgery and insisting that you don’t need the rest. Since I’m so very aware of the connections that link each part of the muscular system to the next it’s hard for me to understand how anyone imagines that their body is somehow made up of isolated parts that just have empty space in between.

I know I’m pretty much preaching to the choir since my readers are folks who already know this; I’m partly just ranting and partly interested to hear what others think about how we (or whether we should) educate people to understand more about the amazing system that the human body is.

To me it’s kind of like our own personal version of the great interconnected web of all life. Just as we want to keep the rivers and oceans and species and plants, etc. alive and playing their roles in the flow of life, we should have the same view of keeping the flow in our own bodies.

Healing Journey Monday: Working on Your Ancestors

I’ve been periodically aware of the influence of my ancestors on the current state of my life and over the years I’ve experimented with a variety of ways to work on issues that stem from family patterns. I’ve never tried to do an exhaustive study so I’m sure there are dozens more possibilities than what I am presenting, but these are some things that have worked for me. If you believe the past is the past and the dead are unreachable, then this is about to be too woo woo for you. And I’m dipping into territory that’s more woo woo than traditional practice. So beware, woo woo is afoot below…

First of all, I think lots of spiritual practices have an impact so I believe that my years of practicing the Eight Key Breaths and the Five Tibetan Rites and Flying Crane Chi Gung have been subtly working on the energy level of these problems for a long time and possibly I’d have gotten through these issues with only the practices. But I like to try different practices and modalities and I’m usually lobbing several “fixes” at any issue, so I also went for the woo woo.

About 10 years ago a practitioner with shamanic training told me that I had an issue that went back seven generations in the maternal line. I gave more detail in a previous post, but the short version is that I used meditation to go deep within and then asked to be taken back to the ancestor who started the issue. That got me information–whether you believe that such information is true makes a difference in deciding to use the technique—that the women in my family were seers and one was burned at the stake leading her daughter to close down the “sight” for all generations to come.

Having pinned down an ancestral story to work on I wasn’t sure what to do. A friend of mine mentioned that with second degree Reiki you learn how to send healing long distance or through time. Shortly after I took a class for second degree (I’d had first for a long time) and started sending healing back to the daughter. Sometimes I said the lovingkindness chant for her. I felt like the issue became somewhat better but I still felt that she was holding all of us who came after in her belief. Periodically I’ve continued to send Reiki and to try to reach her in meditation and offer her lovingkindness.

Later I started noting patterns of poverty consciousness going way back in my family tree. I work a little bit with Akashic record reading (see ARCI) so I did a reading and got advice to work with EFT (Emotional Freedom

EFT-tapping points

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Technique), including a couple of phrases to use for the process. I started tapping with the phrases and there was some opening in my body work sessions and a few things seemed to open up in the way of financial opportunities but it didn’t seem to eradicate the issue.

Skip ahead to my recent realization that the ancestral poverty consciousness is also linked to ancestral patterns of holding tension in our bodies, especially jaw and face. I went back to the Records to ask for more suggestions and I came out with two more EFT statements to tap, an affirmation to repeat and a statement to use with one of the ARCI grace points. After a couple of rounds the muscles at the core of the holding patterns in my head finally started to open. They’re still unwinding but I know it’s basically done now.

At a recent Full Moon ceremony we each wrote down something to release and threw our pieces of paper into the fire. I released another aspect of ancestral holding. To be honest, I’ve never personally had a dramatic result from any of these ceremonial burning practices but I’ve occasionally encountered someone who has and I like the symbolism of releasing old stuff to flames so I love to take part in those.

Shamanic journey is another path to work on this kind of thing but I’ve never used the personal journey techniques I’ve learned to chase down an ancestral tale so I can only tell you it’s another possibility that’s available.

From meditations to affirmations to long distance Reiki to EFT and beyond, there are a lot of ways you can work on ancestral issues (cellular memory) if you believe you can impact your predecessors and my experience is that you really can get things to move on out.

Nostalgia for Numbness

The good news lately has been that a lot more unwinding in my head has set off a lot of muscles opening down my body.* The bad news is that lots of muscles deep in my back and legs that used to be numb are opening and that means pain. The last few days it has hurt to breathe sometimes and even small movements are painful. I’ve had this experience of muscles hurting when they first open before so I know what it feels like, I just haven’t had quite so much opening at once – makes me kind of nostalgic for the numbness. However, I know that when the muscles (and especially the nerves that have been smashed in the knots) adjust to being out in the world, I’m going to have more freedom and relaxation and comfort than I’ve felt in memory.

I’ve been thinking about this and how well it mirrors the way change often feels. There’s that happy piece that’s often there because you’ve actually been trying to change something (or the grief that accompanies the kind of change you don’t want). But change also means you’re saying good bye to the way things were and that’s not always easy. It also means you’re facing the world with a new set of circumstances and, while that may prove to be great in the long term, most of us are a little uneasy when life is really different from the way we’ve known it. So change often means there’s a period of pain even though the outcome may be that life is better or at least that you can adjust to a new equilibrium.

Even though I’m occasionally thinking numbness wasn’t so bad I keep reminding myself how pleased I will be when these muscles have finished healing. How the pain will lead to better days. That the numbness represented the emotions I stuffed and the issues I didn’t feel. This pain tells me that all I’ve done to let go of the past is working and when the pain passes my body will finally be free. What will I do with all the hours I’ve devoted to getting my body back? For sure I see some happy dancing…

*Several practitioners have explained that a tilted sphenoid can lead to lines of twisted muscles extending all the way down to your feet.

Healing Journey Monday: The Time It Takes

The time line in alternative medicine is so different than the time expectations fostered by allopathic medicine that I’ve run into lots of people over the years who have not been able to understand why it often takes so much longer to see results in alternative medicine.  I guess I didn’t question it in part because western doctors just dismissed my health issues and alternative practitioners actually took my complaints seriously, found explanations for my incessant exhaustion and felt they could treat me.  As long as somebody was doing something I didn’t question how long it might take.  

The big difference is that in alternative medicine they’re actually trying to heal the problem and those shots and pills that make you feel miraculously better are designed just to mask or remove symptoms with little or no concern as to whether you’ve healed the problem that created the symptom.  [I realize there are more doctors now who have a holistic view, but they were exceedingly rare when I started the journey — if you note a little bitterness, it’s based on my experience and I’ve never gone back to a medical doctor]  Not surprisingly it takes longer to heal issues than it does to hide a symptom.  

Acupuncture, for instance, works sort of by layers.  If you have the flu the day you show up to complain about a sore shoulder the acupuncturist is going to work on the flu first because the treatment on the shoulder won’t work if  your body is turning all its resources to healing the flu.  I’ve seen people walk away disgusted when the practitioner was actually giving the best treatment because it didn’t address the issue in the expected way.  Takes time to heal all the interrelated layers.  

In chiropractic and body work a good practitioner is also looking at patterns and layers and if something in your hip is contributing to the pain in your shoulder then the therapist will treat your hip.  I’ve also seen people give up in disgust because they couldn’t grasp that their body has interconnected parts.  Sometimes a pattern somewhere else in the body is pulling on the area where you feel the pain and that pattern has to go before the specific area can release.  Takes time.  

Now in my case all of the treatments dragged on long enough that I now realize I should have been looking for a new modality a while back, but I am not dissatisfied with the treatments I received, all of which helped me move to the place of wellness I’ve reached and all of which helped me sometimes to get relief from pain or to have a little more energy.  

For me the slowness of this process seems to have been part of learning about patience.  The detail of this process seems to have been related to learning about my own body and how to treat it not only for healing but for wellness.  I’d rather go slowly but feel certain that my health will have been restored when I come to the end than to go quickly and just hide symptoms without achieving actual good health.  Relax and enjoy the journey seems like the best advice.

Healing Journey Some Day or Other — Clearer vision



The Flint Institute of Arts was founded in 192...

The Flint Institute of Arts was founded in 1928 and is a member of the Flint Cultural Center. It was recently renovated and reopened with an expanded collection in September 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


When I go back to my home town each year I’m always too busy to be examining my life or purposefully working on my spiritual journey – I’m doing well if I manage a single meditation—so I’m not ever looking for transformation. But several times I’ve felt that things shifted – something about wandering through that old familiar territory seems to have an impact even if I’m not trying (or maybe because I wasn’t???).


This time I noticed the last couple of days of the visit the muscles in my face and head were really in motion and moved to a deeper pattern. On the trip back home we made several stops for coffee, lunch, etc. at places with menu boards behind the counter. My eyes have been changing so often that I only wear glasses (a very old pair that’s too strong now) to drive and the rest of the time I let the world be a little blurry around the edges. It’s been slowly getting better but whenever I go into a place where I know I’ll be facing a menu board I take my glasses in and usually wind up putting them on briefly. At every stop I noticed to my surprise that I was reading the board easily and the glasses were still in my hand. That takes my clear vision area to maybe eight feet. I started out with something more like six inches and it’s been very slowly working outward. Reading those boards was the best!


I love those moments when I don’t know what shifted or why but there’s physical evidence that something changed. I also love those moments when I experience healing that doctors would tell me is impossible. That was maybe the best end of the vacation day ever.




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Whiny me

For the last five days my head has been going through it’s unwinding thing almost incessantly. And giving me headaches. Interfering with sleep. I’m trying to hold that calm space where all of that is illusion but really I’m just whiny. And cranky. The universe keeps offering me this challenge to stay grateful for the healing that all of this represents and I keep stumbling on the challenge when the going gets tough.

I mean, when I stop whining every now and then, I remember to think about gratitude. But at the next twitch I’m shaking my fist at the sky and muttering, “heal it or kill me now, don’t care which…”

This seems so minor compared to the suffering of someone like Mattie Stepanek that I can manage to feel ashamed that I can’t seem to transcend this when he handled his illness with such grace. But in the end I have to accept that at the moment this is me and my reaction and it doesn’t help at all to beat myself up about my reaction to long drawn-out problems with health.

I can feel by the process that the deepest core of what’s been twisted in my head is opening. When the unwinding is quiet for a bit I’m actually kind of excited about the potential for learning how it feels to have a head in which all muscles are relaxed and healthy. Kreig, the creator of Bodypatterning I’m always mentioning, chatted with me the other day about how ancestral holding patterns can have a big effect. I could instantly see how patterns of tightening have come down through both sides of my family. So when my face calms down a bit I’ll be exploring that ancestral piece. Right now I’m too busy whining.